Review by Steve Anderson
Young Wolf Productions' "Ghost Lake" is a film that tries its hardest to be all things to all people. While I can't help but respect its sheer ambition, I find myself wishing that it would pick a ball and run with it.
So what we have here is the story of a surprisingly familiar event. Anyone remember the movie "In Dreams?"
Basically, that's what we've got here, after a fashion. Up in the wild, untamed reaches of upstate New York (ever been to Buffalo? wild and untamed is a good description!) state planners decided someone needed a lake.
Apparently, no one bothered to tell the residents of one particular little town in upstate New York beforehand, Rushford Lake, because the establishment of the lake drowned them all.
Which is pretty interesting, when you stop and think about it. I mean, how does this happen? Didn't anyone from the local zoning commission hear about this?
Didn't anyone bother to stop into Rushford Lake and say, "Hey, guys, you're gonna want to know about this...in a couple weeks here we're gonna flood the valley with somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million gallons of icy cold water. You should probably go get some change-of-address forms."
I know, it's strange already, but it gets worse. Our heroine, a girl by the name of Rebecca, has just lost her parents to a car accident, and it's not sitting well with her. She goes off to our flooded little town to mourn her parents and recover, which she definitely needs. She's already hallucinating and having sex in the backseats of cars and we're not even ten minutes in yet.
Even better, once our hallucinating skank-in-waiting gets up to our flooded little town, bodies hit the floor as the bodies of the flooded dead are emerging from the lake to feed on the bodies of the living.
So we've gone from "In Dreams" to "Night of the Living (albeit flooded) Dead" in the space of around thirty minutes. Wow. Talk about breaking some serious film-speed records.
The strangest thing about "Ghost Lake", you'll discover, is its rapid shuffling of genres. It can be a suspense movie, a murder mystery, a zombie movie, and then suddenly something completely different all within the space of as little as twenty minutes.
While I'm not beyond mixing things up a bit, "Ghost Lake's" frequent genre shifting confuses me more than a little. There's a difference between spicing things up with a little variety and emptying the spice rack into the pot.
Now, despite the truly baffling nature of the plot, "Ghost Lake" has a lot going for it. For instance, Woelfel has a gift for suspense building, which he exercises to the fullest. For instance, start watching around the twelve minute mark and you're treated to a slow sequence with lots of moving shadows and assorted jolts.
Check out the nifty dual-dream sequence around the twenty two minute mark that'll also give you a heads up on the baffling plot. Woelfel's ability to create a frightening world makes itself plain around the forty minute mark--check out the run through the graveyard for all the scares you could need. And some of the effects near the end qualify for gruesome and scary points all at once.
Plus, as an interesting aside, Rebecca's last name is "Haster," a fairly clever play on "Hastur" of Lovecraft fame. Plus, it fits pretty darned well when you come right down to it.
The ending is a pretty big surprise, in and of itself. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
The special features include director's commentary, deleted scenes with commentary, two behind the scenes featurettes, an audition reel, and a trailer for "Ghost Lake."
However, I'm told that I got an advance screener copy, and looking at the box it does say just that in giant white letters, so there's a chance that when you get your copy, there may be something totally different in the special features.
So don't blame me.
All in all, "Ghost Lake" is a graphic lesson in biting off more than one can chew.
It's an incredibly ambitious project, and not without its charms, but this film of
blind ambition proves that a film can go in entirely too many directions, giving
viewers a maze instead of a roller coaster ride.
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